Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Amazon asks FAA for permission to fly drones

A worker prepares an item for Amazon Prime delivery at Amazon´s distribution center in Phoenix, Arizona in this file photo taken November 22, 2013. Amazon.com Inc told customers on Thursday that the annual membership fee for its Prime shipping and media streaming service would go up to $99 from $79 next week, the first time it has increased the price since the service began in 2005. REUTERS/Ralph D. Freso/Files    (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS)
A worker prepares an item for Amazon Prime delivery at Amazon's distribution center in Phoenix, Arizona in this file photo taken November 22, 2013. Amazon.com Inc told customers on Thursday that the annual membership fee for its Prime shipping and media streaming service would go up to $99 from $79 next week, the first time it has increased the price since the service began in 2005. REUTERS/Ralph D. Freso/Files (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS) REUTERS

NEW YORK - Amazon is asking the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to use drones as part of its plan to deliver packages to customers in 30 minutes or less. The online retailer created a media frenzy in December when it outlined a plan on CBS's 60 Minutes to deliver packages with self-guided aircraft.

In a letter to the FAA that was released Thursday, Amazon said it was developing aerial vehicles as part of Amazon Prime Air. The aircraft can travel faster than 50 m.p.h. and carry loads of up to five pounds. About 86 percent of Amazon's deliveries weigh five pounds or less, the company said.

The FAA allows hobbyists and model aircraft makers to fly drones, but commercial use is mostly banned. Amazon is asking for an exemption so it can test its drones in the United States. The Seattle company says its drone testing will only take place over Amazon's private property, away from airports or areas with aviation activity, and not in densely populated areas or near military bases.

The FAA is moving forward slowly with guidelines on commercial drone use. Last year, Congress directed the agency to grant drones access to U.S. skies by September 2015. But the agency already has missed several key deadlines and said the process would take longer than Congress expected.

Mae Anderson Associated Press
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